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Rotator cuff surgery aims to relieve pain and allow you to use your shoulder more easily.
You might need rotator cuff repair surgery if you have damaged or torn your rotator cuff. A rotator cuff injury can happen for a number of reasons. The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury are:
Other symptoms that indicate a damaged rotator cuff include:
Having surgery can restore function, improve your mobility and increase your range of movement.
Ultimately, successful surgery can help you return to your normal activities.
Another non-surgical treatment is steroid injections, which can also help to manage the pain.
However, physiotherapy is usually the first port of call before considering surgery.
If you have a large tear, are experiencing recurring pain, or have limited arm mobility and muscle weakness in the shoulder area, and physiotherapy has failed to control your symptoms, then rotator cuff surgery may be the most appropriate solution.
Many rotator cuff tears can be carried out using as keyhole surgery. Arthroscopy involves inserting a thin metal tube with a camera and bright light at one end (this is known as an arthroscope) through small cuts made in your shoulder joint. Your consultant insert specialist surgical instruments through the arthroscope and to repair the wear and tear in your shoulder. This involves re-attaching the tendon to the head of your humerus (upper arm bone).
If you have a larger tear, “open” surgery may be required. This involves a larger cut being made over your shoulder and the rotator cuff tear being repaired with stitches and bone anchors.
Arthroscopy involves inserting a small camera, called an arthroscope, through a few small incisions, and passing surgical instruments through these incisions to treat the shoulder joint.
If you have a larger tear, open surgery may be required and a larger cut over your shoulder will be made. Bone spurs may also be removed to prevent the rotator cuff tendons from rubbing against the bone. The surgery itself is usually performed under a general anaesthetic, however a variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible.
During the surgery, your surgeon may use instruments to remove any thickened tissue, release any tight tissue and to shave off some bone.
If you have a large tear, your surgeon will repair the rotator cuff using stitches that anchor into the bone.
Complications specific to rotator cuff surgery include:
Your consultant will reassure you by explaining the likelihood of these complications.
Your ward team and physiotherapist will give you instructions on your post-operative exercise regime and functional advice. Once you’re back in the comfort of your own home, it is important to follow advice on how to keep the surgical wound dry and clean.
To help manage any pain you may experience, your consultant may prescribe pain relief medication. You’ll need to attend regular physiotherapy sessions and perform your prescribed exercises at home.
These exercises will help you to increase your range of movement, function and strength. After approximately two weeks, the stitches or clips can be removed.
However, it can take up to a year to make a full recovery in terms of building enough strength in your shoulder to return to normal activities.
Regular exercise can help to speed up your recovery, but before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team for advice.